Slow Cooker Dip Week: Spinach and Artichoke

For our annual potluck, the Pie and I decided to make three hot dips and have them with crackers and vegetables for people to snack on while they waited for the rest of the food our guests to arrive.  As with all slow cooker meals, the prep pictures look prettier than the final shots, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that they’re well worth eating — so worth eating, I’m giving each dip its own post this week.  Today we’re making SPINACH AND ARTICHOKE DIP WITH BACON.  This dip, adapted from a Better Homes & Gardens recipe, is easy and fantastically tasty, and we halved it to fit in our 1/4qt slow cooker.

First, cook up a couple slices of bacon.  Drain those on paper towels and crumble them when they’re cool.

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Dice up about 1/2 a sweet onion and a few green onions, and chuck them in the bacon skillet with a little bit of the bacon fat and sauté until the onions are soft and translucent.

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Chuck those in your 1.4qt slow cooker when they’re ready to go.

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Roughly chop up the contents of a 14oz can of artichoke hearts and huck those in, as well as about half a drained 10oz box frozen spinach.

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Chop up a sweet bell pepper finely and chuck that in.

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Crumble up about 2oz blue cheese and pitch that in too, as well as 4oz package plain cream cheese (that’s half a block package).

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Add in as well as much minced garlic as you like, and 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard and give the whole thing a good stir before covering and cooking, stirring occasionally, for about 2-3 hours, until everything is all melty and lovely.

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Stir in your crumbled bacon and you’re good to go.

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It’s the one on the right. Stay tuned for the middle dip on Friday!

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Slow Cooker Dip Week: Bacon Cheeseburger

As a thank you for babysitting Ruby one weekend, Cait gave me these three wee 1.4 qt crock pots as a wee present.

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Apparently Ruby is more evil than she looks.

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For our annual potluck, the Pie and I decided to make three hot dips and have them with crackers and vegetables for people to snack on while they waited for the rest of the food our guests to arrive.  As with all slow cooker meals, the prep pictures look prettier than the final shots, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that they’re well worth eating — so worth eating, I’m giving each dip its own post this week.  Today we’re making BACON CHEESEBURGER DIP.   This recipe is adapted from Betty Crocker.

Start with 8 slices of your favourite bacon.

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Cook those up nice and crispy, then drain them on a paper towel.  When they’re cool enough, crumble them up with your fingers.  Save a few tablespoons for garnish later on.

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Then, with your pan still hot (and redolent of bacon), chuck in 1/2lb lean ground beef and cook that stuff up until it’s no longer pink.  Drain that sucker.

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Chuck the ground beef and your crumbled bacon into your 1.4qt slow cooker.  Turn it on to low.

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Grate up 1 cup cheddar cheese and chuck that in, as well as a 10oz can diced tomatoes, juice included.

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Cube up 1 8oz package plain cream cheese and add that in as well.

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Cover and cook for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally, until everything is hot and bubbly and melted together.

Slice up a few handfuls parsley and chuck that in for colour.

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We also sliced up some bell peppers for dippin’.  And crackers too.

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Garnish with your remaining crumbled bacon and serve (it’s the one on the left).  Stay tuned for the rest!

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Make Your Own Yogurt — The Easy Way

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I may have mentioned to you before that my new sister-in-law, Atlas, has the coolest mom, who may very well be my new hero.  This woman runs her own business, runs her family, runs the kitchen … essentially, she’s in charge of everything, but she does it in such a way that you don’t even notice.  And always with a big smile on her face.  Anyway, she gave me a recipe for making my own yogurt that doesn’t sound intimidating at all.

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I remember my mother trying to make yogurt with that weird little machine and the starter and all that stuff, and how I hated what came out of it.  It had a weird skin on it and was super runny.  But this stuff?  Not the same.  So much easier.  So much better.   In fact, my own mother has adopted the process and there’s always a huge tub of fresh yogurt in her fridge as well.  The recipe I’m going to give you below has been halved, because there are only two of us in our little house.  However, now that I’ve made it and I see how quickly we use it, I will probably make a full batch next time!

So what you need is a large pot, a spoon, 2L homogenized milk, 500mL half-and-half (“blend cream” is what they call it here), and about 1/2 cup plain yogurt (with no gelatin) as your starter.

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In the pot, stir your milks together and bring them to a boil.

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When they boil, they will foam the heck up, so stir vigorously for a minute before removing the pot from the heat.  Mine may have boiled over.  Twice.  I may have shouted some choice four-letter words.  Several times.  Note to self: next time, use a bigger pot.

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Leave the milk to cool to a nice warmer-than-room temperature (Atlas’s mom says somewhere between 40°C and 50°C). She says to stick your finger in it to feel if it’s warm. I decided, in the interests of science, to use a thermometer to confirm.  For your edification, 114°F is about 46°C.

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Mmm, milk skin … you can just get rid of that.

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Then add your 1/2 cup yogurt and give that a stir.

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Put the lid on the pot (or pour it in a container with a lid), wrap the whole thing in a blanket, and put it somewhere warm for 6-8 hours (or overnight).  Atlas’s mom puts it in the turned-off oven with the oven light on, but our oven doesn’t have a light, so I put it in our living room on top of the Pie’s computer.  It seemed to do the trick.

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And you can easily turn this into strained yogurt (“Greek” yogurt) by straining it for a few hours through a cheesecloth.  After 8 hours on top of the computer, I lined a colander with cheesecloth and dumped the yogurt in.  I let it sit over another bowl overnight in the fridge to drain off the whey and this thick loveliness is what came out of it.

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Goes great in soups and stews, in dips like tzatziki, on breakfast cereals, with a little honey and some strawberries … you name it.

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